Madison Realtor and community give Reeseville family hope

Child with special needs to move closer to hospital
Madison Realtor and community give Reeseville family hope

A Reeseville family has experienced the giving spirit of the holiday season.

The Fenskes are a family of seven. They can be described as diverse, loving and in desperate need of a change to keep their daughter alive.

Then they got a helping hand from an unexpected person, their Realtor.

Parents Shannon and Kevin adopted five children Esen, Bamlak, Hiwot, Kamila and Marissa. Each child has special needs.

“You can’t bring everyone home, and you can’t help everyone. But there’s certain things that we felt about these kids that we’re very passionate about. We’ve talked about it for a long time. If not us then who,” explained Kevin Fenske.

But 5-year-old Marissa can call for the most attention. She was born prematurely and has suffered from hydrocephalus, a brain condition that can bring on life-threatening events.

Over the years their home has become a danger.

“There’s been a couple instances where I’ve tripped and fallen on the stairs while carrying her. It’s the location as well. It’s a 20-minute wait for paramedics to reach her,” Shannon described.

Shannon said because Reeseville contracts emergency services with Watertown, paramedics must make multiple stops before Marissa can get to American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison.

“It’s the worst feeling and it’s a helpless feeling,” Shannon said.

The Fenskes looking to move closer to the hospital met Neil Mathweg, a Century 21 Realtor.

“That’s when I told them that their house was worth less than what they thought it was worth,” Mathweg recalled.

Mathweg suggested several options including a short sale. The family declined to go with a short sale and exhausted several other options Mathweg suggested.

As time went on the relationship between the Fenskes and Mathweg faded. But then months later Shannon reached out to Mathweg again saying he was their last hope. That was when he learned more about the family’s circumstance.

“I’m going to take the Realtor hat off and put the dad hat on, and do everything I can possibly do to help your family get out of this get closer to the hospital,” Mathweg said.

He tapped into his network and shared the Fenske family story through a GoFundMe page and donations started coming in.

“You don’t ever want to be the person on the receiving end, asking for help; but when it comes to your kids I think you’ll do anything,” Shannon said.

But it was at a Realtors’ conference, complete strangers donated more than $20,000, enough for the Fenskes to move out.

“There were a lot of tears on the phone that day,” recalled Shannon.

“I don’t have any words to explain that feeling. Still, still no words,” said Kevin.

At this point the Fenskes have the money to move into a new home, but the fundraising continues to cover any expenses that come up along the way. They said any excess money will toward helping other families in need.

They are currently looking for a home in Columbus or Sun Prairie.

You can visit their GoFundMe page here.